For our children, summer camps and holidays are sometimes difficult to manage. Being with other adoptive families and staff who are trauma trained can help us make wonderful memories together.

I have just returned from a day at Wiston Lodge, near Biggar, in Scotland. And, as expected, it was fantastic!

My daughter and I have been going to the Adoption UK Scotland activity days and residentials since she first came to live with me, eight years ago. The first time we rolled up, I wasn’t expecting much. I was at the end of my tether and was exhausted. I’d just called the AUK helpline looking for an understanding ear and Fiona suggested coming along for the weekend. She tried to explain how supportive the weekend would be for both of us – but I didn’t really get it… until we’d been! 

The first time we were there was an eye-opener. My daughter, still a new addition to my family, was anxious, grieving and still getting used to me and I was finding her controlling behaviour exhausting to manage. We only went for the day, and I arrived feeling tearful.

There was an art activity set up and my daughter refused to follow the steps, choosing instead to do her own messy creation. I found this quite upsetting, but the instructor took it all in his stride, praising her for her creativity and encouraging me to relax my expectations. She moved freely from activity to activity, mixing with other children and I found myself able to mingle with other parents.

What a relief it was …simply talking to parents who just ‘got it’ – the challenges, the exhaustion, the worries. They made me feel normal. They made our life feel normal. I felt like I was able to really relax in a way I hadn’t been able to do before. My daughter was safe. Her behaviours were not unexpected. They were understood in the context of our family.

What I have gone on to realise, is how important this experience is for both of us. Our community has grown over the years, and we have both developed very strong friendships. It is lovely to hear my daughter chatting to a friend casually mentioning her foster sister and for it not to be a big deal. I love being able to tap into advice from friends who are a little ahead of me in their parenting journey. I find out how and where I can access support for particular issues we might be having as a family. It also reminds me that our experiences are normal – I am not the first or only parent dealing with this issue.

I love seeing the same children and families year after year. I see how the children have grown and matured. I see the difficulties they might be facing but I also see how far they have come and how strong they have been. And, I have hope for the future.

I can honestly say that parents and children visibly relax when they come back to Wiston, which is the venue we use. Maybe it’s partly the place itself – lots of green space amid a large, stately home which has lost any grandeur it might once have had, leaving in its place a sense of robust comfort. It’s definitely the food – simple, home-cooked, child friendly and plentiful! And, it’s also the staff – nurturing, understanding, welcoming and known to us. They get our children. They encourage and celebrate and accept what the children can do on any given day.

Take today for example. My daughter watched the rope climbing activity, refusing to wear the harness because she didn’t like the feel of it. The instructor didn’t force her, and neither did I. On another day she might have more tolerance. She’ll do it when she can. Later, she embraced the canoeing and was the last person to climb out her canoe at the end. She loved it! Again, the instructor took it in his stride when he moved on to raft building. He didn’t force everyone to move on. Those that wanted to raft build were able to do this, and those that were still enjoying and benefiting from the canoeing were able to keep doing that. Every child came away from the activity with a sense of achievement. There was a lot of laughter and camaraderie.

If you would like to find out about activities days or weekends for adoptive families where you live, then Adoption UK can help you. Contact our Communities Team for more info: [email protected]

By Paula, Helpline and Education Advisor